The Scoop In Hillsdale? Tattoo Parlor Turns Ice Cream Parlor
Many of you know Margaret Roach from her wildly popular blog, A Way to Garden, or her book about dropping out of the corporate world, And I Shall Have Some Peace There, or way back to her days as garden editor of Newsday or Martha Stewart Living. What you may not know (and given her svelte figure it’s hard to imagine) is that she’s got something of a sweet tooth. So when a new creamery opened up near her home, one that gets everything right, from the locally produced ice cream to the looks-like-it’s always-been-there décor, to the early opening hours that let you get a cup of coffee and a muffin if you happen to be on your way to work, she just had to share the news.
The Food Network made them do it—specifically a show about the nation’s best creameries, which Ken Davis and J. Kevin Draves happened to see in May. They looked at each other across the living room and knew: It was time.
“We were seeing what other little places were capable of doing in their towns,” recalls Draves, “and it just cemented our dream.”
“Six weeks later, we’re here behind our own counter, serving ice cream,” says Davis (in photo, left), who, together with Draves (right) , opened The Village Scoop on the Fourth of July in Hillsdale, NY, to the delight of some 200 first-day visitors.
The inspiration had begun two years earlier, when Davis and Draves bought the site that had long housed the American Tattoo Studio, a one-story wooden building next to Passiflora, the popular gift shop that the pair had boldly opened in May 2009. That was two years before the town’s latest wave of bustle when Matthew White’s Hillsdale General Store and David Wurth’s Cross Roads Food Shop arrived, but nine years after the couple began weekending in Copake and quickly realized that they’d someday want to live there fulltime.
The former inking-and-piercing establishment seemed to be just right for another kind of parlor altogether: the kind serving banana splits, milkshakes, floats, classic soft-serve—and with wi-fi.
But making it happen never quite reached the top of their to-do list—until the nudge from that TV show in May. They knew they had barely a month-and-a-half until peak season, and the punchlist was longer than the number of possible flavors: a complete renovation (accomplished lickety-split by George Lagonia of Spencerton, who recently completed the Roeliff-Jansen Library project); selecting brands; buying equipment; and hiring staff—oh, yes, and learning how to form a perfect scoop and swirl a proper twist. The interior paint color was the one no-brainer: Benjamin Moore’s Vanilla Milkshake. “We didn’t need to look further on that one,” says Draves.
Many taste-tests and long days later, the two-man jury was in: Jane’s Ice Cream of Kingston, NY, an artisanal Hudson Valley brand since 1985 (also served at LICK in Hudson) is supplying signature flavors like Killer Chocolate and a Strawberry that tastes as fresh as a u-pick pint of fruit, alongside such unexpected varieties such as Lavender, Cappucino Kahlua Caylypso, and Pear Sorbet. Prefer soft-serve? It’s from Upstate Farms in Amsterdam, NY. Black-and-white cookies, brownies, and other baked goodies are from Sweet Sam’s in the Bronx; the coffee’s from 11 Roasters of Bend, Oregon.
The couple’s experience running Passiflora helped. A vendor of tables and birdhouses crafted from vintage barn board shared his source, which became the paneling for a wall and counters of the studiedly rustic interior. Eclectic overhead light fixtures are likewise from Passiflora vendors (and can be purchased next door); in just the first week, two customers had already left with a cone in one hand and a Holstein bust like the one adorning the creamery in the other.
But no amount of advance planning could help with one giant detail: how much to order. There hadn’t been time to advertise, or get listed in local tourism brochures… Would anybody show up? The answer: a resounding “Yes, indeed.”
By Day Three they’d gone through 38 two-and-a-half-gallon tubs and had to track down the Jane’s owners (who were on vacation) for an emergency refill—24 more tubs. Two-hundred punchcards for frequent-buyers-to-be vanished. Apparently their brand-new customers are planning to return for seconds on house specials ranging from affogato (any scoop in a coffee cup with hand-pressed espresso poured over it) to cotton-candy milkshakes for the kids—or to check email and the headlines with breakfast muffins and specialty coffees and teas served in an indoor-outdoor café atmosphere from 7 a.m. on.
What’s next for the Passiflora/Village Scoop proprietors?
“We laugh about putting a red X through the C on the logo out front this fall, and becoming the Village Soop,” says Kevin. One would expect some pretty exciting flavors if that winter-warming concept materializes—or maybe the Food Network will have something to say about the menu. —Margaret Roach
The Village Scoop
2640 State Route 23
Summer hours: Sunday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Photography by Donna DeMari